Use These Techniques To Superpower Your Innovation Program

Innovation Program Powers, Activate!

I’ve talked before on how I believe that the MVP model is not only awesome for startups, it’s also pretty awesome for anything in life. So it shouldn’t be too surprising for you to hear me talk about how you can use the MVP model in order to build your internal innovation engine.

When I was a kid in Canada, I remember these books of maze puzzles that my parents used to give us to do in order for us to while away the hours while we drove up to the cottage. This was, of course, in the days prior to smartphones and tablets, so we had to have something other than that and the occasional game of punch buggy to get us through the long trips. Of course, me being the smart-ass problem solver that I was, managed to rip through the puzzles in record time once I realized that if I started at the end and made my way back to the beginning, that was much, much easier.

First, start with the goal in mind: what do you want your innovation engine to produce? As I’ve said before, innovation means many things to many people:

  1. Innovation is a serious attempt to determine the true set of your companies future products and services
  2. Innovation is a fun way to keep our employees motivated to stay with your company
  3. Innovation is a way to position ourselves as a leader in your industry
  4. Of course, its could also be all of the above

Once you have the top goal in mind, like I used to do in the back of my parents car, just work backward to get the plan for your MVP.

Let’s say that your goal for this specific innovation program is to motivate your employees to stay with you. Your objectives, in the order I’m suggesting:

  1. Make it FUN: If you ask me, there is nothing more fun that thinking about the future and cool new products and services. You should focus on the fun factor. Have you seen the movie Tomorrowland? The first part of the film takes place at the 1964 Worlds Fair – when the world was interested in optimistic futures – why not leverage that vision of the future for your materials and messaging. Retro futures are cool if you ask me
  2. Recognition: Forget about cash rewards and iPads (most people have iPads now anyways) – make it about the recognition – set it up so that the winning ideas get presented at some big company shindig – give away a lunch with the president of your company and tell everyone all about it. Let the winning inventors make a video describing their invention and spread it internally
  3. Build it, but do it publicly: take the winning idea, and as long as it’s doable, create a small team to actually build a prototype – send it out internally for review and comment, then iterate. Ideally, and it depends on how you feel about doing this – feature it externally in a “labs” section of your website, so you can get customer feedback on the idea

Of course, some of these tips apply no matter what you want your end result to be – but it all helps.

So here is your set of steps to a Minimum Viable Innovation Program:

  1. Name your program – come up with a cool name people can get with and maps to your brand
  2. Come up with a set of criteria for winning
  3. Come up with a set of non-monetary rewards to give out
  4. Make it time-boxed (really important)
  5. Set up a website to collect ideas. This can be anything from a specific innovation management tool (like Spigit, BrightIdea, or build your own – for a simple short program, even a WordPress install might be enough)
  6. Create a set of communications around the program which will flow out over time, during the program, in order to help remind people of the program
  7. Launch it.
  8. Follow through: do exactly what you will say you are going to do, exactly when you say you are going to do it.
  9. Sit back and reap the rewards

Now got forth and innovate!